With summer fast approaching, new research released today on National Venomous Bites and Stings Day reveals that many Australians are missing vital venomous bites and stings first aid knowledge.
A survey commissioned by CSL Seqirus of over 1,000 Australian adults, including over 670 parents, reveals that while almost 1 in 3 Australians (28%) say they or someone they know has been bitten or stung by a venomous creature1, less than 1 in 10 (10%) Australians have received venomous bites and stings first aid training in the past 12 months.2
Meanwhile, many Australians report encounters with venomous creatures in their homes (18%), backyards (40%), toilets (11%), and beaches (29%),2 but only a quarter (28%) take a first aid kit with them when they venture out to the bush or beach.2
With over 3,000 Australians hospitalised each year due to being bitten or stung by a venomous creature2, experts are calling on Australians to be more prepared before heading outdoors over summer.
These calls are especially prudent given only a small portion of Australians are able to identify all correct first aid steps for venomous bites and stings, including snake bites, box jellyfish stings, and funnel web spider bites (23%, 4%, and 23%, respectively). Many Australians incorrectly believe a tourniquet should be used for a snake bite or funnel-web spider bite.2,3,4,5,6
CSL Seqirus Medical Director, Dr Julianne Bayliss, said, "Australia is home to some of the world’s most wonderful but venomous land and sea creatures, including snakes, spiders, and jellyfish. And with the changing climate and more Australians enjoying the outdoors over summer, we can expect the likelihood of encountering a venomous creature to increase.
“The Australian Government ensures that emergency treatments are available for Australians if they are bitten or stung, but knowing what to do in the immediate moments after a bite or sting could make all the difference.
Acknowledging there are different first aid techniques for infants and children, less than 1 in 10 (8%) Australian parents are very confident in knowing exactly what to do if their child is bitten or stung. This is half the number of very confident parents three years ago (16%).2,7
The survey showed less than half (40%) of Australian parents surveyed in 2023 had talked to their children about venomous bites and stings first aid, with many saying their own lack of knowledge (24%) is the main barrier to not informing their kids.2
Critically, 1 in 10 (11%) Australian parents do not engage in conversations about venomous bites and stings first aid with their kids because they expect to be covered in the school curriculum.2
“While there is currently no nationwide curriculum focused on venomous bites and stings first aid, we encourage Australians to prepare themselves with up-to-date information on how to both prevent encounters with venomous creatures and apply the correct first aid in the event they are bitten or stung,” Dr Bayliss added.
St John Ambulance Australia CEO, Brendan Maher said, “Our first aid courses teach essential skills for responding to common bites and stings. Simple actions like calling 000, keeping a person calm, and knowing how and when to apply a compression bandage or a cold pack, can provide important intervention until further treatment is available.”
“We encourage all Australians to have basic first aid skills, and to carry a well-stocked first aid kit in their homes, and while they are mobile, such as in their car or backpack, including for activities in the Australian environment, such as bushwalking or going to the beach.”
How Australians can be prepared
Most Australians (77%) surveyed believe that knowledge of venomous bites and stings first aid is important, particularly for people living in regional and rural areas.2,8
Fortunately, there are simple steps Australians can take to be prepared for encounters with venomous creatures this summer:
- Download the free Australian Bites and Stings App to have up-to-date first aid information on hand if a venomous bite or sting does occur. The latest version of the App has a geolocation feature, allowing Australians to share their coordinates with emergency services if they have at least one bar of coverage.
- Dress and pack a bag for the bush with an in-date first aid and snake bite kit, mobile device, and food and water. When outdoors, wear long pants and enclosed shoes, stay on designated trails, and avoid getting too close to wild animals or putting hands anywhere that can’t be seen. If working outdoors, wear heavy duty gloves and be careful when lifting logs, rocks, or debris, which may be home to snakes and spiders.
- Read up on other first aid resources including First Aid for Bites and Stings, Pressure Immobilisation Technique (PIT) and DRS ABCD via the Australian Bites and Stings website. Resources are available in 10 languages.
The National Venomous Bites and Stings Day is in its second year, aiming to help inform Australians on what to do if they are bitten or stung by a venomous creature.
This year, the day is championed by Australian professional basketball team, the Cairns Taipans, who being based in regional Queensland, see how important it is for Australians to be prepared for encounters with venomous creatures.
Cairns Taipans guard Tahjere McCall said, “Our team is named after one of Australia’s most venomous creatures because of how deadly we can be on the court. But in nature, taipan snakes can do more damage than a three pointer. That’s why, as we head into the warmer months, it’s important for us all to know what to do if bitten or stung by a venomous creature, and the Australian Bites and Stings app is a great place to start.”
In partnership with CSL Seqirus, the 2023 campaign partners include St John Ambulance Australia, Australian Venom Research Unit (AVRU) at The University of Melbourne, James Cook University, Women's and Children's Health Network, Women's & Children's Hospital Adelaide, Australian Reptile Park, Venom Supplies, Venom Evolution Lab at The University of Queensland, Australian Reptile Academy, National Centre for Farmer Health, Australian Herpetological Society, and Healthy Digital. The campaign is funded by the Australian Government.
– ENDS –
The survey sponsored by CSL Seqirus was conducted online by Pureprofile in October 2023 with a nationally representative sample of n=1,004 Australian adults, including n=676 (67%) parents or guardians. The sample included n=178 (18%) respondents who speak a language other than English at home and n=294 (29%) of respondents who were born outside of Australia. The full key survey data summary is available upon request.
Amy Miller, WE Communications
+61 (0) 431 072 422
Hamish Walsh, CSL Seqirus
+61 (0) 422 424 338
ABOUT THE AUSTRALIAN BITES AND STINGS APP
The Australian Bites and Stings App is available to download for free from the Apple App store and Google play or from the webpage: www.seqirus.com.au/bites-app. The app has interactive features with videos and news content. Information contained in the app has been designed to provide assistance for the general public on first aid if bitten or stung by Australian venomous creatures. The guide is specific to Australian fauna and is based on local resuscitation and first aid management guidelines published by the Australian Resuscitation Council (ARC).
The Australian Bites and Stings App has a new geo location feature, allowing users to know where they are in the instance they are bitten or stung by a venomous creature and need to provide their location to emergency services. Note, the geolocation function is only available in areas where there is mobile reception.
The information provided in the app is to be used as a reference only and is not intended as a substitute for professional first aid training and techniques. Call 000 to seek urgent medical advice or assistance.
ABOUT CSL SEQIRUS
CSL Seqirus is part of CSL Limited (ASX: CSL). As one of the largest influenza vaccine providers in the world, CSL Seqirus is a major contributor to the prevention of influenza globally and a transcontinental partner in pandemic preparedness. With state-of-the-art production facilities in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia, and leading R&D capabilities, CSL Seqirus utilises egg, cell, and adjuvant technologies to offer a broad portfolio of differentiated influenza vaccines in more than 20 countries around the world.
In Australia, CSL Seqirus operates the only local manufacturing facility for seasonal and pandemic influenza vaccine and produces a range of unique medicines in the national interest including antivenoms and the world’s only human vaccine for Q fever. The company also in-licenses a broad range of paediatric and adult vaccines and specialty pharmaceutical products.
As the only manufacturer in the world to supply antivenoms specific to Australian fauna, CSL Seqirus is committed to reducing the burden of venomous bites and stings through awareness, education, and community programs.
REFERENCES & FOOTNOTES
1 CSL Seqirus Survey 2023. Data on File.
2 AIHW, 2021. Venomous Bites and Stings. Accessed October 2023. Available at: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/injury/venomous-bites-and-stings-2017-18/contents/summary.
3 In the past, a tight tourniquet was recommended as the best method to cut off blood flow and prevent the circulation of venom through the body. This is no longer advised. Better Health Channel. Accessed October 2023. Available at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/bites-and-stings-first-aid.
4 For the purposes of the survey, the correct first aid actions for a snake bite were: Call 000 for medical assistance; Reassure the person, keep them at rest and under constant observation; and Apply the pressure immobilisation technique (firm pressure bandage and limb immobilisation). Actions based on "Australian Bites & Stings - What to do" by Paradise First Aid. Accessed October 2023. Available at: https://www.paradisefirstaid.com.au/australian-bites-stingsfirst-aid.
5 For the purposes of the survey, the correct first aid actions for a box jellyfish sting were: Call 000 for medical assistance or a lifeguard; Gently remove any remaining tentacles; Wash the stung area with vinegar; and Apply a cold pack for pain relief. Actions based on "Australian Bites & Stings - What to do" by Paradise First Aid. Accessed October 2023. Available at: https://www.paradisefirstaid.com.au/australian-bites-stingsfirst-aid.
6 For the purposes of the survey, the correct first aid actions for a funnel web spider bite were: Call 000 for medical assistance; Reassure the person, keep them at rest and under constant observation; and Apply the pressure immobilisation technique (firm pressure bandage and limb immobilisation). Actions based on "Australian Bites & Stings - What to do" by Paradise First Aid. Accessed October 2023. Available at: https://www.paradisefirstaid.com.au/australian-bites-stingsfirst-aid.
7 CSL Seqirus Survey 2020. Data on File.
8 A regional area is classified as a small city or country town with a population of 1–15,000 people. Meanwhile a rural area is classified as a remote area with a population of less than 1,000 people.